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Keeping hens I naturally have to bear in mind the presence of our little mammalian friends. I've often discovered a little nest of baby mice under the nestbox where their mother has carefulyl constructed a nest of straw. I don't mind them, they're quite sweet, and they really can't eat that much grain. However, I have unfortunately had an influx of rats lately, much to mine and my neighbours distress. Country rats I can handle, urban rats...I tend to think of slightly more disease ridden. All I can hope is that my vicious hens will turn on this ratty army and keep them away once and for all!
Another reasons for the increase in the rat population is the proliferation of backyard poultry keepers (I am one). The advice, which if followed will minimise any rat problems, is similar viz - clear away uneaten food at the end of the day. Also ensure poultry food is stored in rat proof continers i.e. strong metal.
I had a rat in my compost bin a few years ago which got evacuated when I turned the heap as you suggest. I then put galvanized wire mesh under all my bins (I have 9 on my allotment and 2 at home) and it didn't return. I'm sure it just went to somewhere a little easier to get into. The shock when I first saw one in my bin means I always give any bin a hefty set of knocks before I take the lid off, just to make sure any rat present gets a headache and leaves!


Rats can be good at cleaning up rubbish too - think how much good they do - I once saw a VERY big rat at a highway services, obviously living a good life on scraps of fast food discarded by the passing motorists. Mice do more damage to a garden than rats. We are just conditioned the think of them as vermin. BUT it is a good idea not to leave bird food out on the ground and they breed so very fast.
We have a rat living and eating off the fat of the land in our garden. He's a delight and has given us much pleasure as we've waited, cameras at the ready, to catch him hanging from our neighbours bird feeders or being fought off the pasta/porridge/bird seed spread on the lawn in our garden, by our most territorial robin. Yes, you may, if you're terribly unlucky catch a fairly rare disease - but then every time we come into contact with other human beings the same can be said. Please, lighten up people, ratty is far more fearful of us (for good reason) than we should ever be of him!
I frequently have rats in my garden as we live in a built up area. I have had them in my plastic compost bin and the solution has been to put the bin on paving slabs, we have left a tiny gap between the slabs for worms and it has been very successful for a number of years. I'm afraid we have had to resort to rat poison when the problem got too much and the rats were playing on the lawn in the middle of the day. The advice to clear bird food away before 4 is useless as rats dont tell the time and in my experience come out all through the day. At the end of the day we have to accept tht if you live in a built up area you will always be close to rats
2 rat stories: - We keep chickens - had to buy a new corn bin recently as rats had eaten right through the heavy duty plastic lid in one night. I set mouse traps in the potting shed a couple of weeks ago. Came back next morning to find activated traps with just heads inside. Can only assume rats ate the dead bodies. Truly gross. Really no way of living rat free in country or town. They don't really trouble us.
The bird feeding area at Westonbirt Arboretum is also a prime spot for watching the resident rat population. Safely behind glass thank goodness.
No rats - 3 cats! Well I don't know about rats but the local mouse population has gone down rapidly in the last month or so prior to the snow! Some ladies and myself used to garden for the elderly and one of my companions found a rats nest in an open compost heap. She screamed and ran away and the household dog chased the big rats away. I ended breaking up the nest and killing the 10 or so baby rats with a spade. Cruel? Maybe but as far as I'm concerned better 10 dead baby rats than 10 more fully grown rats.
I had a rat (I only ever saw one at a time) feeding on bird feed during last winter's snow but Rentokill sorted it out for me. I saw a mouse in my mum's garden during the summer so the council put down some poison. The poison disappeared so we assumed all was well. However a few weeks later we opened a bag of compost and emptied it out only to find that the mice (mouse) had taken all the bait into the middle of the compost! It looked a little like a nest but it couldn't have been very warm. Has anyone seen anything like this before?
I have an allotment shed and i think (rats) have burrowed tunnels underneath to make nests.. so i took to leaving rentokil poison down.. but i was horrified to see a dead one with an enormous hunch on it back, where i can only think the poison must of done this.. it was still alive, just slightly moving... i don't think that i can do this again to any living creature again...!! i will just have to board up all the gaps and holes so they have to find somewhere else.. as for the living in my compost heaps, well they are not causing any harm to me there at the moment..
Welcome back Monty - hope that yu are now back to your old self. Look forward to seeing you in the New year
Rats may be everywhere, but NOT in my garden (or house) thank you! My neighbours started keeping chickens a few years ago, and very soon they had a family of rats breeding under their decking, and popping out to feed from the chicken feeders. Their own measures to catch them failed, so they had to call in the professionals, who soon killed them with poison. I have seen mice climbing my bird feeders, but if I saw rats then I'm afraid the birds would have to do without until the rats were destroyed. They are vermin, carry disease, and have no place in my garden.


Rats eat natural food too, not just bird food. We found a cache of about 40 alpine strawberries under a ridge tile in one our beds. Apparently they like hoarding food. This was about 100 feet from our bird feeders.
we have a few rats around the garden an in the compost bins althou we put alot of bird food out on the floors in hangers and tables but lucky for us we have two patterdale terriers witch keep them out lol and have savaged most of them when giving the chasnce do they lukely dont get into the house we have the odd mouse but there small n sweet
Ours is a country garden with a apond ans surrounded by arable fields and pasture so rats a plenty but they're clean and rather attractive. I do take exception and put poison down when they scoff seeds and seedlings and other goodies in the greenhouse or invade the stores of bird food in the garage but otherwise leave them alone in the garden. Our dog finds rats very entertaining so we get the occasional excavation in the borders but she's only caught and killed two. We get smaller rodents which are far peskier in terms of scoffing seeds and seedlings in the garden and are more likely to find toads than rats in our compost heaps.
Thanks for all your comments and suggestions, and especially for sharing your gruesome stories! patientgardener I think rats can tell the time, but it's the same as Mister wolf - i.e. it's always 'Dinner Time!' Sorry. Kate